Duuude, Tapes! Godhunter & Secrets of the Sky, Split

Posted in Duuude, Tapes! on September 10th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

They kind of had to stretch to make the title work, but they got there in the end. For each respective side of the Battleground Records split tape between Arizona polisci sludgecore bashers Godhunter and Oakland atmospheric blackened doomers Secrets of the Sky, there are two songs. Godhunter present “Pursuit/Predator” and “Gh/0st:s” and Secrets of the Sky have “The Star” and “Gh/0st:s (Part II),” the latter cut for both deriving its title from an acronym of the bands’ names, the second one altered so that if written out it would appear as “Of the Sky: Secrets” and stylized with a zero where the ‘o’ in “of” would otherwise be. Again, it’s a stretch, but they make it work, and tie the two pieces together musically well. The two acts toured together earlier this summer around slots at the Doom in June festival in Las Vegas and they’ll partner again — with many others as well — for the Southwest Terror Fest as part of a booming lineup headed by NeurosisSunnO))), Goatsnake, et al. On the earlier tour, the tape was sold in an edition of 100 copies with godhunter secrets of the sky split tapeartwork by Nate Burns. Vinyl is due at the end of this month in cooperation between Battleground and The Compound.

What the two bands mostly have in common is that they’re heavy, and yes, I recognize that says next to nothing about them. Godhunter derive a big part of their sound from hardcore, and as the “Pursuit/running you down” call and response gang-style vocals over acoustic guitar round out “Pursuit/Predator” — which begins and ends with the Zodiac Killer, sampled — that’s all the more prevalent. To contrast, Secrets of the Sky take a Euro-style approach to blackened doom, a clearer production than one thinks of to fit the phrase “American black metal” adding a lush sensibility to their doomed progression on “The Star.” I suppose the two bands share an affinity for experimentation as well, however, since both 10-plus-minute installments of “Gh/0st:s” depart widely from the sphere of what one might expect from the band. In Godhunter‘s case, they bring in vocalist Julia DeConcini of Young Hunter and Burning Palms to top a moody, ambient tension with layers of otherworldly melody. There’s a spoken word break somewhere around the middle, and a guitar chug emerges later on, but at no point does “Gh/0st:s” explode with the kind of aggression shown in “Pursuit/Predator,” and that’s obviously the idea.

Immediately, Secrets of the Sky are on a different wavelength. Side two starts out with guitars slowly building up, and when “The Star” kicks in full brunt, the Oakland five-piece include a roaring death metal growl for good measure. A current of synth throughout provides further distinction, but even withoutgodhunter secrets of the sky tapeSecrets of the Sky have a more metallic root. Blackened vocals over a rolling doom verse give way to atmospheric guitar and spoken whispers, and it’s not until the final moments a cleaner-sung approach is revealed. By then, Secrets of the Sky have taken “The Star” up and down and around and beaten the hell out of it, a clear, full production ensuring that nothing is lost in the process. A more plotted feel presides over “Gh/0st:s (Part II)” as well, which is instrumental save for the endearingly blasphemous Exorcist sample at the end, as it too builds and recedes with crisply mixed toms, synth, acoustic guitar and plugged-in rumble. The sample is what pushes the track past 10 minutes, and I’d call it superfluous, but Secrets of the Sky and Godhunter pretty clearly had in mind that the pieces would complement each other and be of similar length, and they are.

Despite the sonic differences, there’s an apparent affinity between the two bands for each other’s work, and that comes across as they meet in the middle (it’s a very far out “middle”) on the two “Gh/0st:s” pieces. Still, each side of the tape has something different to offer underscoring the idea that, let’s say, if you’re showing up to a gig where both acts will be taking the stage, there’s really any number of angles from which your ass might be kicked.

Godhunter & Secrets of the Sky, Split (2014)

Godhunter on Thee Facebooks

Secrets of the Sky on Thee Facebooks

Battleground Records

The Compound

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Sorxe Premiere “The Mountain Man” from Surrounded by Shadows

Posted in audiObelisk on August 21st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

“The Mountain Man,” the rhythmically-centered, viciously lumbering finale of Sorxe‘s self-released debut album, Surrounded by Shadows, is led directly into by the title-track, a five-minute alteration of consciousness via ambience, some touches of brooding Neurosis drone emerging amid the Phoenix-based four-piece’s own exploratory sensibility. The pummel that emerges from the drum intro is all the more devastating for the extended break beforehand. As such, before you click play below, take a deep breath.

Sorxe‘s Surrounded by Shadows draws on the best elements left from the largely washed out post-metal movement. They tradeoff atmospherics and churning, crushing riffs, vary their approach widely, and toy with structures and builds to create a full-album sensibility that each individual song feeds into. The lineup of bassists Christopher Coons and Roger Williams (the latter a founding member of Graves at Sea), guitarist/vocalist/recording engineer Tanner Crace (also synth) and drummer Shane Ocell made their debut in 2013 with an EP called Realms, and all three of those tracks reappear on Surrounded by Shadows, including the 10-minute “Make it So,” which on the full-length functions as the centerpiece around which the rest of the album swirls, darkly hued and rife with multi-directional aggression.

For having two bassists, the guitar isn’t lost in the mix — one always imagines a consuming wave of low end, as if the extra four strings preclude being able to hear anything else — but when Sorxe lock into a full-brunt weighted stretch, you can feel the impact of that extra heft. Even their quieter reflections seem to have a moody feel, and as Crace layers and alternates his vocals between cleaner singing, growls and screams, the band fluidly transcends the bounds of post-hardcore, doom, sludge and post-metal, while effectively maintaining an identity of their own that never seems content to commit to one or the other. No doubt that’s a big part of what makes Surrounded by Shadows such a satisfying front-to-back listen.

But that closer. “The Mountain Man” has its stomp and plod in rounding out the nine-track/55-minute offering, and its initial explosion in chaotic, crushing noise is high among Surrounded by Shadows‘ most satisfying moments, but there’s consciousness at work behind all that bludgeoning. It would be hard for any individual piece to completely sum up everything Sorxe have on offer with their debut, but in providing the album with its apex, “The Mountain Man” also provides a showcase for Sorxe‘s burgeoning dynamic. It is encompassing in its heaviness.

Hope you enjoy:

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Sorxe will release Surrounded by Shadows on Sept. 9 with Bandcamp streams beginning one week before. They’re also slated to appear at this year’s Southwest Terror Fest on Oct. 18 in Tucson, AZ, where they’ll share the stage with Neurosis and The Body. More info at the links below:

Sorxe on Thee Facebooks

Sorxe on Bandcamp

Southwest Terror Fest on Thee Facebooks

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The Obelisk Radio Add of the Week: Twingiant, Sin Nombre

Posted in Radio on May 22nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Caked in dudely burl and post-Church of Misery riffage, Phoenix, Arizona, sludge rockers Twingiant follow their 2012 full-length, Mass Driver, with the brash dual-guitarisms of the Sin Nombre EP. The five-track collection is self-released and built on cement-solid riffs from guitarists Dave Natkin and Nikos Mixas and the beard-filtered growls of bassist Jarrod LeBlanc, who takes a cut like the shorter “La Haine” and pushes it beyond riff rocking into territory more aggressive, yes, but also more engaging in its stomp, duly punctuated by drummer Jeff Ramon.

Modern stoner metal has produced a number of acts working in a similar vein, but Twingiant prove able to navigate the EP without sounding redundant or losing the listener’s attention, the seven-minute “Cloaked in Black” taking Alabama Thunderpussy-style riffs out of the heartland and into a beating with a later slowdown and Ramon‘s fervent crash, answering back the thud of the opening “Pelisneros,” somewhat friendlier in its initial fuzz and early Down (think “Stone the Crow” in a different, less whiteboy-soul context), with Twingiant‘s angriest blows. I realize there are a couple Southern metal comparison points, but Sin Nombre doesn’t operate entirely in that sphere and it’s the contrast the vocals bring to a cut like “Pelisneros” that makes it harder to classify — the sweet leads and brutal growls playing off each other as the groove takes off and the ensuing “Fossilized” actually winds up working in a similarly creeping atmosphere to some of what New Zealand’s Beastwars were able to bring to their latest work, Blood Becomes Fire, with LeBlanc‘s bass playing an especially prevalent role in the second half of the song amid rasping, guttural growls and swirling leads.

But any way you slice it, Sin Nombre is heavy as hell and it knows it. It was made to be heavy and it turned out to be exactly that. A sample of serial killer/hitman Richard Kuklinski – that’s him talking about hate in the break of “Pelisneros” — only furthers the Church of Misery feel, but closer “Ricky X R.I.P.,” which seems to be a recording of someone (presumably the titlular Ricky X, in whose memory the track is dedicated) doing a radio show — and pretty recently, going by some of what he played — gives a surprisingly poignant end to a release full of ballsy riffs and brash grooving.

You can hear Sin Nombre now as part of the regular rotation on The Obelisk Radio, as well as check it out on the player below, snatched viciously from the Twingiant Bandcamp.

Twingiant, Sin Nombre EP (2013)


Twingiant on Thee Facebooks

Twingiant on Bandcamp

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On the Radar: Goya

Posted in On the Radar on October 10th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

From the first creepy fuzz line that launches “God Lie,” the opening cut from Phoenix, Arizona, doomers Goya‘s debut demo, the atmosphere of the disc is mired in cultish lurch. Electric Wizard is a pervasive and near-defining influence, but the trio Goya — who formed in April and released the self-titled five-track demo last month — are nowhere near settled on simply that. Elements of blackthrash show up in the guitar line of “God Lie,” and there’s an underlying impatience in these songs — like they were played fast — that hints of intensity to come. Though frankly, it’s early even to tell that.

Tracks like “Blackfire” and “Opoponax” delve even further into the post-Witchcult Today stream of cult doom, Jeff Owens‘ guitar layering in with keys in a familiar but still thoroughly fucked wash of fuzz and distortion. In making a bed for themselves in Electric Wizard‘s influence, Goya have given themselves a solid starting foundation, and centerpiece “Mourning Sun” wants nothing for low-end rumble thanks to Owens‘ crushing tone and the bass of Jirix-Mie Paz, both of which seem to lumber forth at the march of Shane Taylor‘s persistent kick drum, no less indomitable in the mix than Owens‘ guitar is impenetrable.

Middle cut “Mourning Sun” is the highlight of the 37-minute demo’s five cuts, if only for the more individualized approach it seems to be showing, but 11:30 closer “Night Creeps” carves out a righteous plod of its own as Owens intones “forever dead/forever stoned” in a Jus Oborn cadence before embarking on the assault of wah noise that will cap the demo. No complaints. It’s recognizable for the most part, but Goya are just getting started and for the centerpiece alone, the demo’s worth a look.

In that regard, Owens, Taylor and Paz have made the tracks available as a pay-what-you-will download or a $5 CD (limited to 100; 13 left as of this post), both available through their Bandcamp, from whence this stream also comes:

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Nice Package: Young Hunter’s Stone Tools CD and Newsprint Poster

Posted in Visual Evidence on September 17th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster


You can kind of see it, but the image above is of the envelope in which the CD pressing of recently On the Radar-ized Tuscon, Arizona, harvest doom outfit Young Hunter‘s full-length debut, Stone Tools, arrived. Click the picture (or any in the post, or any in any post) to enlarge. Stamped in black ink on the back in a sort of Native American geometric is a ram’s skull. Oh, what the postman must think of me.

Young Hunter was kind enough to send me one of the 300 physical copies of Stone Hunter, and one look at the packaging of the album and the obvious work that went into making it and it’s hard not to appreciate the effort, attention to detail (like the envelope above) and the effect that a physical presentation can have on what’s more often than not thought of these days as non-physical media. Take a look.

The CD itself comes in a black paper sleeve. Nothing really special about it, but on the front is the band’s logo stamped in silver ink. Obviously this isn’t to scale with the envelope above, but here it is:

Also included in the package, as well as some stickers, is a newsprint poster. Now, I’ll grant that I have and will probably always have a soft spot in my heart for newsprint owing to my time working for publications who utilized it, but as the Stone Tools poster unfolds to a whopping 34″ x 21″, it’s impressive even if you don’t have emotional baggage related to the media.

Inspired to do so by a shot on the band’s Bandcamp page, I left the CD (and the stickers) there for scale, but that’s the darker side. On the right there are words in a vertical all the way down, and on the left a wolf design in shades of gray. Some of the ink bled on the poster — hazards of the trade with newsprint; also something that makes each one unique — but it still looks great. The other side is a horizontal design:

Arranged into a pyramid are the lyrics to Stone Tools‘ nine tracks, and they rest atop a barren desert mountainscape appropriate for the atmosphere of the music. On each side, lines come together in a fade toward the middle and there’s a steer skull at the top. Here’s a closer look at the pyramid:

All told it’s a pretty gorgeous design and a great package that, from envelope to unfolding, really fits what Young Hunter are doing musically. If you want more info on this version of Stone Tools or to get it as a pay-what-you-will download, hit up Young Hunter‘s Bandcamp page. Thanks to the band for sending the album over.

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Empires and Hellas Mounds: Cold of the North and a Desert Sun

Posted in Reviews on December 17th, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster

It's an album cover!Despite the differences in locale, both Empires and Hellas Mounds share more in common than one might think. Both young bands, the former from Minneapolis and the latter from Phoenix, play a definitively American style of post-metal, taking elements from the heavier works of Isis and adding a sense of hardcore immediacy that comes across in the intensity of the material. With two songs from Empires and one from Hellas Mounds, this unnamed split CD (released last year via Saw Her Ghost Records) hits the marks for post-metal in its current developmental stage. There are pieces culled from outside genres, heavy/ambient switches, and rising and falling tension throughout.

Look everyone, it's Empires! (Photo by C. Wood)Empires start their segment of the split with “Unease from up North.” If it sounds like a black metal parody track, it might be, but since three out of the four players in Empires are also involved with Minneapolis black metal outfit Manetheren, the execution of the track comes off less tongue-in-cheek than it otherwise might. At 6:55, it is the shortest song on the split, and puts its blackened influence to work offsetting post-metal rhythms in a manner similar to Prosthetic RecordsWithered, if rawer. Their 10:16 “Perpetual Downpour” is less of a genre bender, but boasts an insistent rhythm line and enough spacey guitar work to make it an interesting listen.

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